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Career Profile

Peter Vlasveld

Intermediate Software Developer
Cyclica
Peter Vlasveld headshot
Peter Vlasveld headshot
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway
Readability
6.1

I write backend code for web apps that help in Cyclica's drug discovery efforts.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Guelph, Ontario

I now live in:  Toronto, Ontario

I completed my training/education at:  I studied Computer Science at Algonquin College in Ottawa. I then studied Neurosciences and Philosophy at the University of Toronto. I followed this with a graduate certificate in Bioinformatics at Seneca College in Toronto.

What I do at work

I mostly write features for the backend code of our internal apps at Cyclica. The skills I use the most from my education are algorithms and data structure knowledge. I learned these skills during my time studying Computer Science, as well as my Bioinformatics education. I had a great prof in my Bioinformatics program. This person taught me an unbelievable amount about databases in a very short period, and it really stuck with me. Now, at Cyclica, I tend to be the go-to guy for database design knowledge. I give all the credit to that one prof!

In terms of problem solving and making decisions, I try to take a design centered approach. I always try to write clean, well-designed, code the first time. Then we go over that initial design to optimize it as we go. I have recently become an advocate for using Test Driven Development (TDD). This process increases code quality and provides a living document of code features and bugs.

My career path is

This isn't exactly what I expected to do when I was in high school, but it is close. I felt lost for a long time, in between. In high school, I knew I wanted to work with computers. I really didn't have much interest in science, though I was good at physics. When I left high school, I immediately applied for a computer science program. During the computer science program, I got interested in science through my own self-learning. That lead me to studying Neuroscience.

During the neuroscience program, I took one Philosophy course, and I was hooked. After University, I felt completely lost. I had these three subjects that I loved, but they had nothing to do with each other. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My wife suggested that I go into Bioinformatics. This was the perfect program! It ticked all the boxes: it had computer science, it had biology, and in a way, you could say it even had some philosophy.

After taking the Bioinformatics program, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. That's when I met someone at Cyclica who was interested in hiring me. So it's kind of funny, because when I was in high school, I wanted to be a programmer. I just didn't know that I would take all those detours to get where I am now. However, I am glad that I took the path that I did because I learned a lot about myself in the process.

I am motivated by

I am a programmer at heart! The potential effect of the code I write, and the science behind it, is fascinating. However, the thing that excites me the most, and that I find the most interesting, is the code itself. I love discovering new ways to improve things. I enjoy learning about new data structures, and packages that I didn't know about before. This stuff is really exciting and fun to learn! If I can ship clean, well-tested code, then I am happy. The impact, and the science are the icing on the cake for me.

How I affect peoples’ lives

Cyclica is engaged in important drug discovery efforts. These could affect millions of people if we are able to ship life-saving drugs or even repurpose existing drugs. This is what keeps me motivated to do the work that I do. I also happen to just really like programming for the sake of the code rather than just for the outcome!

Outside of work I

Outside of work I do a lot of DevOps stuff. I have what you might call a "home lab" full of servers that I maintain and experiment with. It’s a lot of fun! I also really like rock climbing. That is the main way that I get exercise. In terms of volunteering, I try to contribute to as many open source projects that I can.

My advice to others

I would say, don't be afraid to explore, and don't despair if you feel lost. There is a right career out there for you. You just have to find your niche. You may not find it right away, but that's okay.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Drama
  • Technology
  • Computer Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Played video games
  • Liked being given specific instructions
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Learned best "by doing"

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